Bucket drumming and other ideas

I recently went out of town and as usual started getting lots of scatterbrained ideas for projects.

Bucket drumming. I like those street drummers like the bucket boys but while they display amazing feats of speed, coordination and flashy handwork, there is something missing. I feel the same way about marching band style drumming and the blue man group. It's like there is a stylistic, melodic component that I'm looking for but is not there.

Some bucket drummers use pots, pans, grills, and other cookware to get some different sounds goin...like this guy. It started me thinking of how I could build an interesting junk set with lots of different types of sounds - wood, metal, plastic, hollow, solid, trashy - and also incorporate interesting pitched tones or long drones. Unfortunately, probably having a shit load of different sounding things wouldn't make it a very portable kit.

I then started to drift off and reminded myself of my first years in college when I didn't have a drumset. I remember hauling a garbage can on the bus, using different cardboard boxes for a bass drum, and hitting change in a bag for a hihat/snare sound. I found out the best and deepest sounding kick drum can come from one of those big industrial plastic garbage bins just laid on its side. So I started thinking as if I was one of those bucket drummers. Well I'd probably choose one of those big plastic garbage bins for a big boomy bass sound. If it had caster wheels on it (some do) then when it is upright it could be used to store a smaller snare like bucket (maybe a bucket with bottle caps attached to the head?). Then I'd want some sort of metal sound that had a range - from a simple hihat-ish tick to maybe a thicker/trashier sound. Maybe a piece of old ductwork? Finally I think I'd want to incorporate some sort of melodic component, tuned to a specific "personal" melody that would work well with polyrhythms. Hmm...Mbira? But something you can hit with sticks. A giant sized mbira. Something that could elicit semi-long and mushy drones.

It's not the first time I've tried to come up with an interesting street performer type setup. Ultimately what seems to stop me is - would this be fun for me? Interesting to watch? I think I'd like to do it, but what purpose would it serve for the public? Ah...deep and confused questions are starting to appear, revealing my relationship to music and performance. For fear of being a self-serving and self-aggrandizing performer (maybe this fear is the source of my block and awkwardness towards solo performances? hmm...) the next logical step is to introduce elements outside of myself or eliminate myself from the equation.

My first thought was to attach some sort of boombox/speaker thing to the drumset and plug an iPod into it. Have some music going through that, either original compositions or some music I choose, and play to that. It adds a rich melodic component but I can still riff to it. It's like playing with another person. A lot of street performers do this, but usually to terrible music.

Then I started thinking, "Maybe I should just eliminate myself completely from this." I don't know why my mind went here. But I started to think about public space and people in it. The problem with street performers is that it's like being a guy on a soapbox shouting to the world. You get a lot of people mildly involved with what you are doing, and perhaps in a rare instance someone is deeply affected by what you are doing or saying. But it would be interesting to flip the situation on the public and have a few individuals passing by become the performers themselves, becoming deeply involved with what is going on. An easy way to do this would be to have a pair of interesting looking horn shaped speakers setup in a public area and invite whoever is passing by to plug in their iPod and play a song through it. Almost everyone has some sort of portable music player these days and thinks the music they are listening to is the Best Music Ever so naturally there would be some people who'd like to take off their headphones, plug into some giant ass speakers and blast their favorite song in a subway tunnel while they wait for the train.

I think this kind of thing would be interesting to setup and watch how people use it. Would they abuse it? Fight over the use? Be annoyed by it? Or not really see the point?

It'd be really cool if the speakers were directional and could only be heard within a 20 foot radius of the speakers. This would give annoyed people room to move away but also create a confined physical area like a dance floor for those who want to listen. Now it's interesting because the performer is pushing and pulling people in a physical space.

So here is the scene: Some guy with his iPod is listening to a song that he really likes and wants to blast it loudly while he waits for his train. He plugs into this device in the middle of the subway platform and it starts playing the music in a 20 foot radius. Captivated listeners stay in the circle and start dancing. Annoyed people move out of the circle and can't hear anything. And they are now watching people dancing in silence. The whole thing seems like a fun experiment to try, and something that could remain interesting if permanently installed in one location for a long period of time.

But back to the bucket drumming. I'd like to do this, even if it wasn't for a street performance thing. Hm. I wish there was a venue for trying something like this out. I have tons of weird sound ideas/games/experiments I'd like to try.

xbeethovenx (not verified) says:

nice writing with a lot of interesting ideas there. I should re-read this and comment more in depth, but my initial joke is: "You have a lot of ideas there, you should create a venue!"